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Day 2 - Tana

MADAGASCAR | Sunday, 2 May 2010 | Views [452] | Comments [1]

The morning in Reunion involved more rain and taking a lovely walk by a very grouchy looking sea. Also worth mentioning for potential travellers, the main St Denis bus stop (Gare Routiere) is right on the sea in the middle of town. It was an easy 15mins walk from my hotel (including some dawdling down the streets and to a local church) and if you don’t have too much luggage (the footpaths are at times narrow and uneven) definitely doable. Despite the rain, the view on the way to the airport was quite nice, and I could almost imagine how beautiful the mountains would be on a sunny day. I was also able to see a waterfall that must have been enormous to see from such distance (some are reputedly a kilometre in height). A place to return when I have more money.


But back to the main item of business, MADAGASCAR! I knew I’d love this place the moment we began our descent. Two hours flight west of Reunion, the clouds had long parted and the island’s patchwork rice fields were clear below us, bathed in tropical sun. I’m still jumping with excitement.

Antananarivo (or Tana for short) is the islands main city and holds ~2million in a sprawling and dirty mess of streets. Here and there are occasional boutiques and upmarket apartments, but the majority of people seem to live in small, rundown units and do their daily business out on the street. My first impression was how lively and colourful everything is. People filled the streets; vendors, buses full of people, young girls with produce on their heads. Even the goats and chickens were out and about in the sunshine. I also noted how the only things that appeared new and clean were the myriad of brightly coloured advertisements, billboards and signposts, mostly for mobile phone companies.


The one bad thing I’ve met with so far is how beggars target foreigners (it’s like there’s a bullseye on Arno’s head).  Of course there are beggars in every city in the world, but here, they are often persistent to the point they will follow and plead at you all the way down the street. This can be difficult when you realise the average income in Tana is 40Euro a month. Yet it’s not good for locals to become reliant on handouts and to see it as an acceptable means of living. I’ve heard the suggestion to give out non monetary things (pens, fruit, food, etc) as most beggars we encountered were children. However, I’ve also heard that if you give one attention the rest will swarm you and occasionally will rob you while the others hold your attention. Arno says he gives every day, but not to the beggars, instead he supports the vendors and working people by giving a little more than market price for his purchases. I think it’s a practice I’ll adopt.


Other bits. 10Euro will get you a very comfortable room (btw, the classic movie for the night is Michael Douglas’, “Romancing the stone”). We are currently at the Moonlight Hotel (Arno found it via his Lonely planet guide) and his room is basically a 4 star suite (28,000Ar for his, 22,000 for mine). I once read somewhere that you can get a room in Tana for 2Euro but to be safe, you should always go a minimum of 5. I will have to investigate further.

“ Tana is one thing and the rest of Madagascar another.” Tomorrow we head for the south. Can’t wait.


Tips for travellers:

ATMs are not hard to find in Tana; Arno had a favourite bank located in a small and not too busy back street.

The current currency is Madagascan Ariary (Ar), not to be confused with the old Franc (FMG) which is worth 5 times less. Right now 1AUD is about 2000Ar and 10,000FMG

Preconfirm the price of things, esp taxi fares and don’t be afraid to haggle if you want (at the airport I was approached at least a dozen men with, “taxi madam?” so the competition for your business is there). It’s about 20,000-25,000Ar to get from the airport to the city centre by a reputable taxi.

Be fast on your feet and keep your wits about you, especially in Tana. Pickpockets and bag thieves are everywhere.

Here, cars have priority on streets, so don’t expect them to slow down or dodge you.

The majority of people in Tana know at least a little French and if you’re lucky English. Even the little children know “money please?”

Bring mosquito repellent and ask your doctor about typhoid vaccines and malaria prophlyaxis before you come. If you get put on dioxycycline, consider an extra strong sunscreen.

Tags: antananarivo, madagascar, tana




Sounds like a gritty adventure novel!
How did you go with the beggers?
Did you give a little more at the market? Or did your genes force you to haggle for every Ar ;-)

  Sam May 16, 2010 1:02 AM

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